Racing beat

| June 01, 2006

Tomorrow’s Car Today
NASCAR’s “Car of Tomorrow” tested in March on the track where it will make its official debut next year and received high marks from both NASCAR and the drivers who participated.

Three NASCAR Nextel Cup Series teams – Richard Childress Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, and Roush Racing – along with NASCAR’s own prototype, tested for more than seven hours at Bristol Motor Speedway, the site where the Car of Tomorrow will run the first of 16 scheduled races for the 2007 season. Previous Car of Tomorrow tests were held at Talladega Superspeedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Daytona International Speedway.

At the March test, Brett Bodine, NASCAR director of cost research, drove the Car of Tomorrow. Cup drivers who participated included Carl Edwards, Jeff Burton and Reed Sorenson.

Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition, says the test was a great opportunity for the teams to learn and adjust, and at the same time provide important feedback to NASCAR.

“The primary goal for today’s test session was to see how the cars would handle both in single car runs and in traffic,” says Pemberton. “It was a real positive for us, as we were able to get a close look at how the cars would run here, listen to the drivers and their team members, and have a good exchange of information.”

Pemberton says the addition of the rear wing, which would replace the conventional spoiler, is in the “95 percent window of certainty” as being a new feature on the car. The wing is a bolt-on aerodynamic piece that can be adjusted so the car’s handling can be tailored to different tracks. It is just one aspect of the Car of Tomorrow that will allow for reduced costs in the teams’ overall car inventory.

“The general consensus is that the wing is the way to go, and we continue to get positive feedback from it,” says Pemberton. “It’s economical and has become a great option for us in this new design. It should be a real advantage for the teams in helping to control their costs.”

Burton says the Car of Tomorrow will allow a driver’s talents and abilities to become even more prevalent than they are today.

“Even though technology and engineering become bigger and better every year, the great thing about our sport is that you’ve got to have the driver in order to compete, and NASCAR does a great job of seeing to it that technology doesn’t take over,” Burton says. “With the Car of Tomorrow, there’s no doubt in my mind that the driver is really going to come into play.”

As the test progressed, Burton says he became more and more comfortable with the car’s handling and with the wing.

“When we first tested with the wing, we weren’t that comfortable with it, but we made a couple of adjustments, and we became very comfortable with it,” he says. “The great thing about the wing is that you shouldn’t pick up as big of an aero push when you get behind a guy, so when you catch a guy, you might actually be able to pass and go by him.”

NASCAR focused on the car’s balance during the morning portion of the test and spent the afternoon working on the car’s aerodynamic features.

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